Sunderland Harriers are on cloud nine

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SUNDERLAND Harriers stormed to victory for the ninth year in a row in the North East Veterans’ Road Relay Championship at Hetton Lyons Country Park on Saturday.

The over-40s finished third overall in the combined senior race and beat second club Morpeth by nearly half a mile.

The Wearsiders had to wait until the halfway stage of the six-stage 2.22m relay before they hit the front, but at the finish they were well clear of their rivals, clocking 71.58 to Morpeth’s 74.32. North Shields were third (77.28).

Tim Field (11.47) finished third on the opening leg behind Morpeth’s Terry Wall (11.34) and Guy Bracken (North Shields), who recorded 11.35.

Brian Bewick (11.57) was next off for the royal blue vests and he pegged back North Shields, but was still behind Morpeth’s Paul Waterson (11.50).

Relay kingpin Brian Rushworth was up against Morpeth’s leading light Neil Wilkinson as both runners ran the same time of 11.25 to share the quickest time of the day.

Paul Besford, making his Sunderland debut, was the runner to turn the tables on Morpeth, with his stint of 12.07 to hit the front well clear of David Steel (13.10).

Then it was left to Jon Dobson (12.09) and Paul Redman (12.33) to complete Sunderland’s emphatic win over the last two legs.

To round off a good day for the club’s veterans, the over-50 team was also in the medals, finishing runners-up to their great rivals Morpeth.

They also had the fastest over-50 on the course in Hylton Castle postman Rob Rush (12.52).

The other silver medallists included three athletes well into their sixties in Len Christopher, Billy Bittlestone and Jim Wightman. The times were Christopher (14.34), Bittlestone (15.32), Brian Long (14.57), Wightman (14.40) and Tom Campion (14.05).

The Sunderland makeshift senior team ran well to finish sixth (75.00) to winners Gateshead (66.55), second club Morpeth (70.13) and Elswick (72.42).

The team was Mark Hood, with the day’s tenth best time (11.11), Steven Duffy (12.56), Paul Cooper (13.03), Paul Collins (12.37), George Harden (12.42) and Michael Hill (13.31).

Elswick’s Philip Hurst clocked the best time of the day with 10.16, followed by Morpeth’s Ian Hudspith (10.37), Peter Newton (10.41) and Durham’s Shaun Moralee (10.47).

Star performer in the women’s relay was Chester-le-Street’s Alyson Dixon’s record-breaking run on the opening leg.

The international’s brilliant performance saw her finish sixth overall with an eye-catching 11.31.

But Dixon was a member of an incomplete Chester team, so it was left to her clubmates to retain their title.

They clocked 50.55 to beat Morpeth easily (53.26). The team was Claire Simpson (12.52), Angela Hibbs (12.59), Tracy Millmore (12.40) and Emma Raven (12.24).

Sunderland’s Michelle Holt was seventh fastest (13.08) for an incomplete team. Sunderland Strollers finished eighth and Houghton Harriers were 14th.

H PATRICK MARTIN had two terrific performances while on a short tour of Northern Ireland.

The Sunderland Harrier recorded a personal best of 14.18 to finish fourth in the Armagh International 5k Road Race.

And yesterday, in another international field, he finished runner-up in the cross- country event. Martin’s next target is the Trafford 10k next month.

H Sunderland Stroller Liam Taylor finished sixth (47.12) in the yesterday’s rearranged Loftus Poultry Run, won by veteran James Bulman of North Yorks Moors (43.42). Sunderland Harrier Sean Smith was eighth (48.52).

H Sunderland Harrier Noel Hitchcock was seventh in the Absent Friends Trail Race in Billingham.